Introducing Future of Work Week

Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are the new way of work, attracting people who don't want to work for companies anymore.

AccessTimeIconJun 27, 2022 at 3:24 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 10, 2024 at 2:22 a.m. UTC
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Since graduating from the University of Michigan in 2021, Chase Chapman hasn’t taken the traditional employment route. Instead of going into a corporate or nonprofit job, she’s been a member of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) – including Index, Forefront, RabbitHole and Orca – and invested in several Web3 side projects.

To Chapman, traditional employment is dead. In the future, we won’t look to single companies to provide long-term jobs with predictability; we’ll work across multiple organizations, including DAOs, simultaneously. We’ll find professional and personal growth where we can, prizing autonomy and ownership.

This interview is part of CoinDesk's Future of Work Week

“We used to think that our jobs were these things that should give us fulfillment professionally and completely,” Chapman tells Jessica Klein in an interview for CoinDesk’s Future of Work Week. Now “you have a much more fluid way of thinking about what it means to do different types of work and engage across several different organizations.”

Chapman is part of a new breed of worker making a living from crypto networks formed around protocols and governed by DAOs. There are now more than 4,800 DAOs, according to Collectively, they hold $8.3 billion in value (it was more a few weeks ago) and, lest it need to be said, they often make usable products and services.

Once derided as unworkable and liable to hacks (“The DAO Hack” lost about $60 million in 2016), DAOs are now seen by many as the future of work.

The Harvard Business Review published a persuasive case in April (“How DAOs Could Change the Way We Work”) while the World Economic Forum said in June that DAOs could replace traditional businesses. Ben Schecter, the operations lead for RabbitHole, predicts that most of us won’t work for companies in the future. “People will earn income in nontraditional ways by taking actions such as playing games, learning new skills, creating art, or curating content,” he writes in an article for Andreessen Horowitz site Future. “The traditional way to make money was ‘work-to-earn,’ but the future of income is ‘x-to-earn’ – play to earn, learn to earn, create to learn…” (RabbitHole pays people to learn about new Web3 technologies.)

Schecter argues that DAOs are better than traditional companies at orchestrating projects with many insiders and outsiders (like contractors and freelancers). They provide better alignment between organizational goals and individual benefits and offer transparency and sense of purpose. “The openness of these crypto economies will allow people to participate in several DAOs and crypto networks, mixing and matching different income streams and ownership returns,” he said.

Of course, traditional 9-5 employment, which reached its zenith in the post-war era, has been under threat for years. Automation, outsourcing and offshoring reduced the number of employees companies needed, pushing out workers to contracting, freelancing and temp work. Then came gig work like Uber and the pandemic, which normalized working for oneself at home. About a third of the U.S. workforce, or 51 million people, is now in some kind of “nontraditional employment.” Last year, the number of nontraditional workers jumped 34% from 2020, according to data from MBO Partners.

And each version of the internet brings new ways of working. Web1 allowed us to work from anywhere. Web2 empowered entrepreneurs via social media (even if the returns often rebounded to the platforms). And now Web3 is creating ways for people who don’t know one another to collaborate on open-source projects and distribute the collective returns equitably.

DAOs still have to prove themselves as bedrocks of the new economy. But the pace at which they’ve been attracting talent, capital and innovation energy is encouraging. “Mainstream proliferation could happen sooner rather than later,” writes Steve Glaveski – the author of “Time Rich: Do Your Best Work, Live Your Best Life” – in the Harvard Business Review. “At its core, Web3 promises more fulfilling and outcomes-focused work, with a fairer distribution of ownership and rewards – and that is a future worth building.”

For our Future of Work Week, CoinDesk is rolling out a series of features and op-eds looking at the crypto jobs market and how ideas like DAOs will affect how we get stuff done. We’ll investigate how traditional companies are approaching workplace issues in the industry, profile workers on how they made careers in the space and explore trends going forward. Check in throughout the week for continued coverage.


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Ben Schiller

Ben Schiller is CoinDesk's managing editor for features and opinion. Previously, he was editor-in-chief at BREAKER Magazine and a staff writer at Fast Company. He holds some ETH, BTC and LINK.